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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Tatiana Tipakova

    “Unarmed, we are walking in a large column through the center of Berdyansk, while the occupiers with machine guns are walking along the sidewalks.” The history of the struggle against the russian occupation


    АвторAuthor: Anastasia Milenko | Translation: Mariia Moskaliuk

    9 September 2022

    Tetyana Tipakova is originally from Donetsk, but she has been living in Berdyansk for over 30 years. Before the war and the occupation, she was engaged in tourism, had her own agency and a small business on Berdyansk spit. Now she is an activist and volunteer. Because of her pro-Ukrainian position, the woman was forced to leave her native home, and because of her love for the country, she almost lost her life. Tatyana told “Monologues of the War” about the organization of patriotic rallies alongside the occupiers, about the captivity in which she was twice, and about the refusal to cooperate with the russian invaders.

    Until the last, I hoped that the russians would not dare to launch a full-scale invasion. They have already taken Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea from us, so I really thought it was impossible. The main human trait is to hope for the best. Unfortunately, our hopes are often not met.

    On the night of February 24, I just returned from vacation, and in the morning the whole city woke up to two explosions. The first sounded somewhere at 04:15, the second – at 04:50. At that time, my friends started calling me and saying that the war had started.

    Apart from these morning explosions, the city was relatively quiet. Everything worked – shops, market, banks. I also went to work. On the first day, people were already standing in line at ATMs, traffic jams could be observed on the way to gas stations, and someone was going to donate blood. There was a long queue at the transfusion station. But, in general, life continued.

    “The occupiers seized all administrative buildings, hung up their “rags” and freely moved around the city”

    People from neighboring villages come to us every day to sell products at the market. They began to tell that there was a lot of enemy equipment at the entrance to the city. We went to see, and indeed, they blocked the road to Zaporizhzhia and Mariupol. On February 26, they entered Berdyansk. But far from all the equipment came. Some parts went to Mariupol, some remained on the ring road (near the village of Azovske) outside the city, and another part went towards the airfield.

    There were no major riots in the city, but one person died – they shot a security guard of one of the local businesses. The occupiers seized all administrative buildings, hung up their “rags” and moved freely through the city. The city authorities still contacted and informed about the situation in the city, gave advice – how to behave and what to do. This lasted until the beginning of March. Then they seized the building of the executive committee.

    “We will not “eat from the hands of the occupiers”

    On March 3 or 4, we saw on the Internet that a russian humanitarian came to Melitopol, and that people were standing in line for the occupying stew. I have always been a patriot, and I did not hide it. Even the gate of my house had tridents on it. Before that, I actively wrote on social networks, but then I published the first post on my page with the appeal that soon we will have a humanitarian woman, let’s be reasonable, let’s not “eat from the hands of the occupiers.” I urged people not to create queues; I offered help, so that Berdyan residents would not create a picture for “Rasha-TV”.

    On March 5, a humanitarian came to us. All the activists gathered there, and when I saw that people did not agree with us, I was in despair. I began to be haunted by thoughts – what if everyone here was just waiting for russia?

    I wrote another post where I invited everyone who wanted and cared about the “Freedom March” to show the russian invaders that this is our city. I didn’t even expect that anyone would come, and I had no idea that so many people would come. When I arrived at the rally, I was a little confused. I didn’t prepare, I didn’t know what to say, how to act, and here came hundreds of people waiting with Ukrainian flags near the executive committee.

    “We understood that people had to be restrained a little, because we faced the military with machine guns”

    From March 6, we started meeting every day, regardless of weather conditions. Rain or snow – there were only more people. I was joined by boy activists who helped me in everything. We understood that people had to be restrained a little, because we were facing soldiers with machine guns. That’s how it happened. Unarmed, we walk in a large column through the center of Berdyansk, while occupiers with machine guns walk along the sidewalks.

    In the beginning, we were allowed to hold rallies, but later the situation worsened. And it got worse every day. We began to notice that there were strangers walking in the crowd that were following us – how I was going home, what car I was getting into, etc. On March 15, the first activist, Vitaliy Shevchenko, was taken away. Near the rally, eight people “twisted” him and led him in an unknown direction. We got together the next day, came out with leaflets saying that the occupiers had kidnapped a person.

    “They thought I was broken”

    On March 17, another activist was taken away. I was taken away on the 20th. They came straight home early in the morning, and they took me in whatever clothes I was wearing at the time. I don’t want to talk about what happened while I was in captivity. It’s not the time yet. I’ll just say that I wouldn’t wish even on my worst enemy to go through what I went through while I was there.

    Read also: “They did not know that they would die so quickly”: a serviceman of the National Guard of Ukraine about everyday life in combat

    The first time I was there for a little more than a day. In the evening of the next day, I was released. They made me say for the video that I will no longer organize rallies and that my opinion about russia was wrong. Like, russia is not evil.

    I didn’t go to rallies anymore; I spent the night one day, and the next day they took me from home again. The second time I was there for three days. This time they did not use physical force, as it was the first time, but psychologically they put a lot of pressure.

    They thought that I was broken, that after that I would start cooperating with them. They didn’t force me to say something against Ukraine, I didn’t make promises about cooperation, but they made me understand that I have only one life. They just came and asked if I had changed my mind.

    I was released on the condition that I would go to their management the next day and they would tell me what to do. I said I would come, but at night I packed my things, took the child, and at dawn got into the car and left the city.

    “I would walk, because I simply would not be able to stay there and cooperate”

    I was fortunate to. At that time, they were not able to maintain communication between themselves and the military standing at the checkpoints. Now they have already arranged the logistics, they already have some kind of database with our data. Therefore, when we were leaving, I was most worried about the first 2-3 checkpoints that are located at the exit from the city. When we got over it, I realized that the worst was behind us, and no one would bring us back. In fact, I would walk, because I simply would not be able to stay there and cooperate.

    We passed through 24 roadblocks. You stop, you and your car are checked, and you drive on. Most of these posts were not Russians, but Dnipros. And they are naked, barefoot and voiceless, as they say. They asked for food, money, to top up the account on the phone. They were significantly different from those in Berdyansk – those in the bullpen torture people, and then buy ice cream in the store for money. With this, they showed that “we are liberators; I buy from you, not take by force.”

    “On April 28, they arrived and settled in my house”

    In Zaporizhzhia, we started volunteering. I have my own fund here, from where we send parcels to Berdyansk. My husband’s parents stay in town. I forbade them to approach my house, because the neighbors told us that the occupiers continued to come, even after our evacuation. They came and climbed around the yard, and on April 28 they came and settled in my house. About 10-15 people lived there. They hung their “rag” on the flagpole in the yard. They opened my shop, distributed what was left there, and brought their humanitarian worker there. They lived there for about a month and a half. Now I don’t even know what’s going on with my house. I don’t allow anyone to get close to it, because I’m afraid that they might even mine everything there.

    “I wanted to remind you that Berdyansk is Ukraine”

    When I left, and the townspeople were already so intimidated that they stopped going to rallies, the news about our town receded into the background. I wanted to remind you that Berdyansk is Ukraine, so I came up with a kind of flash mob. I wrote to my tourism colleagues asking for help. We developed appropriate layouts and hung billboards somewhere in 32 cities of Ukraine; one was even placed in Vancouver. Everyone helped us as they could. The designer who did the layout did it for free. In many cities, such boards were placed free of charge, in some – we paid only for placement.

    Support Berdyansk in Vancouver

    Patriotic billboard in support of Berdyansk in Vancouver

    Now we want to organize a car race in Zaporizhzhia with ribbons that will mark all the occupied cities in the south of the country. But due to hostilities, it is impossible to implement this idea so far. We will not stop there and will remind the world every time that Berdyansk, Melitopol, Energodar, Vasylivka, Tokmak, Kherson, Mariupol and others are Ukraine.

    Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
    Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.

    Why is it important to share this story?
    If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.

    АвторAuthor: Anastasia Milenko | Translation: Mariia Moskaliuk


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